Pathology of Experimental Aerosol Zaire Ebolavirus Infection in Rhesus Macaques

N. A. Twenhafel, M. E. Mattix, J. C. Johnson, C. G. Robinson, W. D. Pratt, K. A. Cashman, V. Wahl-Jensen, C. Terry, G. G. Olinger, L. E. Hensley, A. N. Honko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations

Abstract

There is limited knowledge of the pathogenesis of human ebolavirus infections and no reported human cases acquired by the aerosol route. There is a threat of ebolavirus as an aerosolized biological weapon, and this study evaluated the pathogenesis of aerosol infection in 18 rhesus macaques. Important and unique findings include early infection of the respiratory lymphoid tissues, early fibrin deposition in the splenic white pulp, and perivasculitis and vasculitis in superficial dermal blood vessels of haired skin with rash. Initial infection occurred in the respiratory lymphoid tissues, fibroblastic reticular cells, dendritic cells, alveolar macrophages, and blood monocytes. Virus spread to regional lymph nodes, where significant viral replication occurred. Virus secondarily infected many additional blood monocytes and spread from the respiratory tissues to multiple organs, including the liver and spleen. Viremia, increased temperature, lymphocytopenia, neutrophilia, thrombocytopenia, and increased alanine aminotransferase, aspartate aminotransferase, γ-glutamyl transpeptidase, total bilirubin, serum urea nitrogen, creatinine, and hypoalbuminemia were measurable mid to late infection. Infection progressed rapidly with whole-body destruction of lymphoid tissues, hepatic necrosis, vasculitis, hemorrhage, and extravascular fibrin accumulation. Hypothermia and thrombocytopenia were noted in late stages with the development of disseminated intravascular coagulation and shock. This study provides unprecedented insight into pathogenesis of human aerosol Zaire ebolavirus infection and suggests development of a medical countermeasure to aerosol infection will be a great challenge due to massive early infection of respiratory lymphoid tissues. Rhesus macaques may be used as a model of aerosol infection that will allow the development of lifesaving medical countermeasures under the Food and Drug Administration's animal rule.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)514-529
Number of pages16
JournalVeterinary Pathology
Volume50
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2013
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • aerosol
  • animal model
  • ebolavirus
  • filovirus
  • macaque
  • rhesus
  • Zaire
  • Zaire ebolavirus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Veterinary

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